Jonesboro, ASU and other entities apply for $20 million infrastructure grant

by George Jared ([email protected]) 608 views 

For several years, civic leaders in Jonesboro have been pushing efforts to improve the quality of living in Northeast Arkansas’s hub city. Several entities are coming together to massively upgrade infrastructure improvements.

Jonesboro Mayor Harold Copenhaver said the city, in partnership with Arkansas State University and with the support of the region’s Congressional delegation and other leadership, will apply for $20 million in funding that would create critical infrastructure to accommodate the region’s growing population.

The Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity (RAISE) grant is one of several for which the city and its partners will apply as the federal government offers an unprecedented amount of stimulus and recovery funding. It comes from the U.S. Department of Transportation, which four years ago provided the $89 million grant that allowed Jonesboro to widen roads and build railroad overpasses that are now completed or soon will be.

“The RAISE application includes 21 miles of multi-use trail featuring cutting edge designs with rest areas, maps, emergency connections and wifi hotspots that weave through Jonesboro,” Copenhaver said. “But this vision is so much more than a trail.”

“This would include areas dedicated to flood mitigation and broadband access. It will help both local and commercial traffic, increase accessibility for residents, businesses and A-State students. And it will provide key tools for redeveloping needed areas of Jonesboro. For our future, this is a game changer,” he added.

Winning the grant would require a 20% match, about $4 million by the city, which could come from a variety of sources including partnerships.

“Similar to the TIGER grant that did so much to help traffic around Jonesboro, there is no way we could do this with our current funding stream,” Copenhaver said.

Jonesboro lacks safe, non-vehicular transit access, giving pedestrians and bicyclists options other than roads heavily used by motor vehicles, as public and private studies have pointed out. This project includes a plan for an Arkansas Veterans Wall of Honor railroad crossing commemorating Arkansans wounded in military service, and the long-sought connection that will redevelop areas between downtown and Arkansas State University.

City Grants Director Regina Burkett said this particular grant fits the description of the RAISE purpose of creating “a sustainable energy future” including infrastructure funding to connect cities with paths and create an interstate system for cyclists and walkers.

Copenhaver noted that building of the trail will include watershed areas that reduce potential for flooding, as well as provide areas for safe exercise.

“This is a step toward opening further doors that keep Jonesboro on the forefront of modern cities without the overwhelming cost to taxpayers,” he said.

Support letters for this grant have come from Gov. Asa Hutchinson, U.S. Sen. John Boozman, U.S. Rep. Rick Crawford, ASU Chancellor Kelly Damphousse, Jonesboro Chamber of Commerce CEO Mark Young and other agency and nonprofit leaders around the region.